Planet Aid Participates in the 24th International AIDS Conference

The 24th biennial International AIDS Conferencethe world's largest conference on HIV and AIDStook place both virtually, and in-person in Montreal, Canada from July 29 to August 2, 2022. The theme for this year's conference was: Re-engage and Follow the Science. Over 13,200 people, representing 161 countries participated.

Planet Aid was amongst the many participating in-person, together with a representative from our local partner: ADPP Mozambique, a fellow member of the Humana People to People (HPP) Federation.

AIDS2022 included leading scientific and medical experts, international institutions - as well as grassroots organizations from around the world. During the course of five intense days, thousands of people from diverse backgrounds, including people living with HIV, gathered in-person and online, to share new scientific developments, personal and professional experiences, and recommendations for strengthening collective action towards epidemic control. Overall, AIDS2022 helped chart a new consensus on the way forward, and renewed commitments to end the epidemic by 2030.

Planet Aid's Director of International Partnerships, Marie Lichtenberg, presented as part of an oral panel, featuring "The efficiency of Index Testing Approach in Community HIV Case Identification" on behalf of local HPP member, DAPP Zambia.

Index testing (also known as partner notification) is described by the CDC as " effective case-finding strategy that targets the exposed contacts of HIV-positive persons for HIV-testing services."

The session showcased the success of the CDC-funded Total Control of the Epidemic (TCE) model in fighting HIV and AIDS over the years, and how it has evolved to include community-based index testing as a fundamental approach. The presentation was very well received and the Q & A which followed, emphasized the ways in which TCE's community-led and trust-building approach saves lives and builds stronger and healthier communities.

"Our HIV programs start with the people; not the disease..."

Reflecting on some of the key outcomes of AIDS2022, Lichtenberg stated, "Our HIV programs start with the people; not with the disease. At AIDS2022, the critical role of people and local communities leading the way towards epidemic control was evident. Only the people can liberate themselves from HIV. This was true 20 years ago and it is true today."

DAPP Zambia's TCE program applies a people-to-people approach, building capacity, agency and confidence in people to take charge of HIV in their own lives. As a starting point, this includes identifying the individuals living with HIV who are unaware of their status, while maintaining their privacy and confidentiality. If someone tests positive for HIV, DAPP links them immediately to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and helps establish a community-based adherence support system which aims to achieve viral load suppression.

Also attending AIDS2022, was ADPP Mozambique's Technical Director for their Local TB Response program, Dr. Algy Abdula, who presented and participated in a panel discussion on DOTS PLUS: a promising approach to increasing adherence to tuberculosis, drug resistant tuberculosis and antiretroviral HIV treatment in Mozambique. The discussion was well-received by the audience, with great interest and appreciation for the role of activists in community-based TB screening, referrals to clinics, notification, medication management, and follow up.

Overall, both Planet Aid and ADPP had the opportunity to meet with new and existing partners, learn about new innovations and strides in HIV prevention and treatment, and share examples of the impactful work being done by local organizations in partnership with governments and donors across the globe to end AIDS.